Over the past decade, there have been significant upgrades and newcomers in the event technology space. These solutions claim to increase revenue, streamline processes, drive attendance, improve the attendee experience, provide data/insight and/or deliver ROI. There are several hundred event technology providers competing to win your business.
When you consider varying pricing structures, functionality, and built-for-purpose options, choosing the best solutions is no easy task. How’s an organizer able to cut through the clutter and make sound choices that deliver results?
Before you take a look under the hood or consider test driving a core technology that you’re going to make part of your event and business processes, consider these ten criteria for vetting:
1. Sustainability of the Company
Most primary software solutions (registration, expo management, content management, speaker management) will deliver the greatest ROI when you are able to use them for three or more years. Event organizers incur lots of hidden switching costs in implementation, training and integration when jumping from solution to solution. Look for years in business, a strong customer list, number of employees, annual revenue, how they’re funded and the longevity of the leadership team for indicators of stability. A revenue/employee ratio in excess of $100K is normally a healthy metric. Consider visiting their office to get a feel for their company culture.
2. Not Their First Rodeo
It would be a CLM (Career Limiting Move) to pick a partner that goes out of business or has a major outage before your big event. Be cautious with start-up companies that are learning from you. Make sure they have a proven track record of providing like solutions to those with similar needs. Ask for examples, testimonials and case studies. It’s never a good idea to be on the bleeding edge with any technology. Exceptions to this might include existing trusted technologies that add new features, modules or integration partners.
3. Fits with Minimal Alterations
If the majority of your requirements need to be met through customization vs. configuration, expect a lengthy and costly implementation. Ask for an admin demo to understand how configurable a software system is.
4. Plays Well in the Sandbox
Make sure you have a good understanding of data import/export capability as well as examples of successful web services integration with other solutions. Passing data between systems, enabling single sign-on and maximizing the value of your data are no longer nice additions, they’re must-haves. Ask if they’ve developed any APIs (Application Programming Interface). Many of these core technologies have other event products integrated into their platform, which adds considerable value for your organization’s technology stack.
5. Plan for Continuous Improvement
Technology is evolving at a rapid rate. Your vendors’ technology needs to evolve at the same pace. Make sure their solutions are scalable and that a product road map is in place. Look for companies that are pushing out improvements, modules or new features several times a year. When utilizing a cloud-based solution, the vendor should regularly apply patches to keep the system updated.
6. Customer Support
User support and project management are huge differentiators between an average and a superior provider. What kind of training, customer support or project management do they include? Research their service models and ensure they will provide live support when you need it. Ask if they have user group meetings where customers share best practices. Do they have a blog, online group, case studies or newsletters that keep existing customers informed and up to date?
7. Stays True to Their Core
A number of tech start-ups build their revenue model around selling sponsorships, ads or upgrades to your exhibitors. We’re not crazy about that model. Most show organizers prefer that their communications and consultative selling be done by their team. Exhibitors or sponsors get turned off by multiple asks for your show. You want a tech company that focuses on improving their product and gives you the tools to be successful.
8. Safe and Secure
Security should be at the top of your requirements list. Vendors should take extreme precautions to keep your exhibitor, attendee and financial data secure. Small or medium-sized vendors may not be able to afford the significant ongoing costs to provide the security you need. Ask where the technology is hosted, what their up-time is and what kind of disaster recovery plan they have. If you are conducting commerce via their solution, ask for proof of their level PCI Compliance. No compliance, no deal.
9. Anal about Analytics
Any solution worth their salt will provide you great stats on pacing, usage and will have a plan for adoption. Do they provide a real-time dashboard that gives you a snapshot on how things are progressing vs. previous years? Do you have the information needed to help aid decision-making and midcourse corrections?
10. Anywhere – Any Device
Most event technologies are considered a SaaS (Software as a Service) platform utilizing cloud-based technology. The biggest advantage of using a SaaS solution is that it can be accessed from any part of the world at any time. These products should also be mobile enabled allowing the same admin functionality from a tablet or smart phone as they do from a PC. Can you go to an exhibitor’s booth and confirm their selection for next year in real-time from a tablet?
What are some of the other criteria you like use to vet core event technologies? What are your best sources for identifying solutions to consider?